Pontypool Personalities

There were various characters in Pontypool which seemed to stand out from the crowd for a number of reasons and which I vividly remember. The first two were generally referred to as “tramps” which, on reflection, would be reasonably accurate. Their names were Hardboiled and Kilka.

Hardboiled was about average height and very thick set. His clothes had obviously seen better days and I imagine he had them from someone who felt sorry for him. He generally wore daps on his feet even in winter time. He constantly wore a serious expression which seemed to indicate a grudge against society in general. I don’t know where he lived but he would often be found in the Crane Street area, possibly because of the number of pubs there. He would just wander around with an unsteady gait usually muttering to himself when he was drunk, which seemed to be most of the time.

Kilka, by contrast, was quite tall and was reputedly from a wealthy family. He also wandered about in a semi-stupor and constantly wore a rather surprised expression on his face. He was slightly better dressed than Hardboiled, possibly because someone in his family took a marginal interest in him.

This duo would frequently be found chatting together either sitting on the steps opposite Franketti’s chip shop or occupying a windowsill near the pubs in Crane Street. Sometimes we stopped to talk to them. To us they seemd a bit simple but harmless; we never heard of them getting into any trouble. They would sometimes ask us whether we had any money to give them. We never did of course, but if we had, I doubt very much whether we’d have given them any to encourage them in their drunken meanderings.

Amendment to the above section of this post:

In July 2011 I was sent an email by Michael Taylor with further information about Hardboiled and Kilka. He told me that they both lived in the first house in Gibson’s Square which would have accounted for them often sitting on the Donkey Steps just below the Square. He further said that both were drafted into the army, presumably at the outbreak of World War II. Kilka became a sergeant, later got married and did well for himself. Hardboiled probably returned to Pontypool.

A similar character, but slightly better dressed and with more purpose in life was  known as Popeye. He was an Argus seller. I don’t know where he lived but his spot for selling Arguses was often near the railway bridge where Broadway and Wainfelin Road meet. He was quite short and thick set with a slight twist to his face which I suspect was the reason for his being named Popeye. His loud cry of “Argus” when selling his wares sounded more like “Arguy” and when we saw him doing his job we frequently tried to mimic his cry which on times seemed to annoy him.

Two other eccentric characters were Bob Trump and his wife who had two shops, one in Market street immediately below the market and the other just a little way down from Town School opposite the corn stores. The one we frequented most often was the one in Market Street which was generally looked after by Mrs Trump. She was a short grey-haired woman who just managed to pop her head above the tall glass-fronted counter; Bob, on the other hand, was a very tall, thin character.  On entering the shop you were immediately overcome by the masses of stock inside, not arranged on shelves but in piles all over the place thus only allowing a few people at any one time to enter the shop. The contents and purpose of the shop defy accurate description but in the main they sold sheet music, books, stationery and other items in that line. We often went in there to buy foreign stamps, usually a penny packet. Those packets always had a very attractive pictorial stamp right in the middle of the transparent front. We’d be tempted to buy it in order to get the stamp we could see, only to find when we opened the packet that we had all the other stamps inside. I remember buying a few books in the shop. Eric Smith and I were very keen on the Conan Doyle “Sherlock Holmes” stories and I remember asking Mrs trump one day whether she had any “Sherlock Holmes” books to which she replied, “No, we don’t have any books by Sherlock Holmes”. We thought it was a hilarious reply. Bob was the Pontypool Town Crier at one time. He was also a great debater and won over 150 prizes for his speech-making prowess throughout South Wales. During 1923-24 he was Chairman of Pontypool Urban District Council. I include a photograph of Bob and his wife below.

This photograph shows Bob standing outside Windsor’s garage on

Albion RoadHis wife is sitting in the car. It looks as though Bob is performing

one of his Town Crier duties as he seems to be ringing a hand-bell in his

right hand and reading from a paper document in his left hand. 


Another colourful character was the fireman, Captain Cope, who was in charge of Pontypool Fire Brigade. He lived in the upper part of the Coedcae (always pronounced Coyca for some reason) in one of the larger houses. Whenever we saw him we always greeted him with a respectful “Hello Captain”. I understand he was very fond of his beer.

The last two of the Pontypool characters I can bring to mind was Sergeant Boulter of the police and Lemuel. I’m not certain why Sergeant Boulter enjoyed notoriety but he was one of the Pontypool characters which people in the town talked about. Lemuel was a slight character who was very quiet and just walked around in a long, light-coloured, oversized coat. He had a permanent twitch of his head. It was rumoured that he was suffering from shell shock as a result of the First World War. This is quite possible as even the men who were fortunate enough to return from that horriffic slaughter often carried scars of one sort or another for the rest of their lives.

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One Response to “Pontypool Personalities”

  1. Laurie Oliver Says:

    Whether it is true or not, I cannot say, but I was once told that Mr Windsor or Windsor’s garage had the first car in Pontypool and my grandfather, W.H.Oliver, (Draper of Abersychan) was the second. He sold clothes and suits on credit and travelled the Eastern valley in his car collecting the weekly shilling or whatever in payment for his garments. The shop is still in Abersychan, but last time I was there was a video shop (just at the bottom of the school lane)

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